adventure travel & photography
Destinations: Pakistan ◦◦ India ◦◦Turkey ◦◦ Egypt ◦◦ Bulgaria ◦◦ Mongolia ◦◦ Bangladesh ◦◦ Jordan ◦◦ Russia ◦◦ Turkmenistan ◦◦ Iran ◦◦ Kazakhstan ◦◦ Japan ◦◦ Hong Kong ◦◦ Greece ◦◦ Ukraine ◦◦ Syria ◦◦ Morocco ◦◦ Italy ◦◦ Mauritania ◦◦ Oman ◦◦ Algeria ◦◦ Faroe Islands
Tours/Expeditions: List with all our scheduled tours and expeditions
About the place
In May 2016, I led a small group to Turkmenistan. The highlight of the trip was the Darvaza Gas Crater, also known as the "Gate to Hell".
The first of the three Darvaza craters is actually filled with water bubbling under pressure from the released gas. The second crater is also a huge muddy hole with several fiery pits.
However, the third crater is the largest, hottest, and most attractive of them all.
The crater has a diameter of 70 meters and a depth of 30 meters. The bottom is covered with individual fireplaces, that have been burning continuously since 1971. At that time, a group of Soviet geologists discovered gas deposits in the area, so they began drilling in hopes of finding oil. However, large underground cavities collapsed, creating these craters. The geologists were concerned that leaking gas would endanger nearby villages, so they set it on fire. They believed it would take several weeks to burn all the gas, but they were mistaken.
If you're worried about missing this natural phenomenon before it disappears, do not worry - the gas deposits found in the area are among the world's largest.
However, there are concerns about the crater. In April 2010, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow recommended measures to limit the crater's impact on the development of other natural gas fields in the area. In January 2022, Berdimuhamedov announced plans to extinguish the crater due to its negative effects on the environment and public health. A commission was established to find the best technique for doing so.
The view around the crater is stunning. Occasionally, the wind blows, stirring up the heat from inside and splashing it on the tourists, who quickly retreat. Although we did not spend the night there, we had a barbecue and spent enough time to enjoy every angle of this magnificent place. An evening picnic in front of the flaming throat of the crater is a wonderful experience. The fiery reflections of the setting sun in the sky and the flames from the burning gas down in the crater create a mesmerizing ambiance. It's a great experience!
Explorer George Kourounis was the first person to step on the bottom of the burning inferno. The entire operation was filmed by a National Geographic Society team and aired on the famous channel in 2014. The strangest things that the explorer brought back from the bottom of the crater were extremophile microorganisms, living beings that have found their natural habitat in such extreme conditions as the craters of Darvaza.
Digital downloads and prints available
Travel to Turkmenistan
We usually have one or two small groups (max 7/8 participants) per year travelling to Turkmenistan. If you are interested in joining a group setting out from Europe, please drop me a line. We will provide more information, like dates, a program, and other details.